Blogs spotlight alternative voices in Corridor

By Joe Sheller/Guest Column

Do you blog or follow any blogs?

A feature of the media landscape for the past 20 years, the online web log has an interesting history. Now and then, such as in the case of wrongly fired USDA official Shirley Sherrod in 2010, that history is a bit dubious. Ms. Sherrod was fired from a USDA job after a conservative blog posted a misleadingly edited video that appeared to show her making racist anti-white comments at a local NAACP banquet. In fact, she had been calling for an end to racist thinking and was describing her own journey from eschewing white farmers to coming to learn she had a moral responsibility to aid them.

The Sherrod affair is one reminder about blogs – they are laced with opinion and often edited only by the writer. They are an interesting medium, but not a reliable source of original information. If a blog says it, you need to get a second source.

Many organizations and corporations have official blogs, and some of those are interesting. For me, however, the best blog is usually personal – what one writer decides to share.

In the Corridor, I’ve observed three broad kinds of blogs. The first are sponsored from corporate sites. One of my favorites is run by Gazette photographers,, which displays slideshows on local news photographs.

I consider local governments and non-profits a corporate blog sub-group. I follow two from the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The “connect” blog gives previews of upcoming events: and another has book reviews:

Crossing into a second classification, there are the “mom blogs.” One local mothers’ blog is sponsored by St. Luke’s: A more informal Iowa City moms’ group writes at

Third, the broadest blog classification is “other.” Sometimes, these center on an activity. There is, for instance, a blog on live theater in the Corridor:

Here are examples of what I think are worthwhile personal Corridor blogs:

  • Jenion: Written by a former colleague at Mount Mercy University who now directs Prairiewoods Franciscan Retreat Center in Hiawatha, this blog often offers poignant insights and personal reflections. The author, Jenifer, subtitles her blog “peeling away the layers,” and once described blogging to me as a form of “emotional nudity.”
  • Homegrown Iowan: Written by a former Gazette journalist, now a freelance writer, Cindy’s blog describes itself: “Homegrown Iowan offers independent reporting and connections to information about local foods, gardening and the environment.”
  • Write to the Point: Written by another Corridor freelance journalist (and another Cindy), this blog is not centered on a single theme, but is a bit more like Jenion—it has interesting, readable personal reflections.
  • The Buttry Diary: I have quoted this blog, written by a former editor of The Gazette who is a journalism professor and college media advisor in Louisiana, in a previous column. The author writes insightful commentary on media.
  • The Life of Meg: One of two Mount Mercy University student blogs I’ll mention—the author has a lively, personal style and is just fun to read. As is:
  • A Slice of Life: Like Meg, Taylor has a fresh, entertaining take on events in her young adult life.

Finally, I blog, too. I know from reading advice about blogging that sources say your best blogs are the most specific—and in my case that advice is completely wrong. My most popular blog is the most general.

  • CR Biker: My life as a bicycle commuter in Cedar Rapids. I ride a bicycle four miles to and from home pretty much year round.
  • CRgardenJoe’s Blog: As the title implies, I sometimes write about gardening, but mostly this blog is random musings. One reason for this being my most popular blog, I suppose, is that I report on my life as a professor at Mount Mercy University, and those who are curious about MMU are a part of my audience.
  • Media and Life: An Iowan’s Commentary: Because this column in the Corridor Business Journal isn’t enough—I write additional commentary on the nature of American media.

My list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure that there are many other worthwhile Corridor blogs. But I hope this list gives you a taste of the vibrancy of blogs as part of the Corridor media landscape.

Joe Sheller is an associate professor of communication and journalism at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. He can be reached at [email protected].